Whose National Security?

Whose National Security?

Canadian State Surveillance and the Creation of Enemies

Edited by Gary Kinsman, Dieter K. Buse and Mercedes Steedman


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Would you believe that RCMP operatives used to spy on Tupperware parties? In the 1950s and ’60s they did. They also monitored high school students, gays and lesbians, trade unionists, left-wing political groups, feminists, consumer’s associations, Black activists, First Nations people, and Quebec sovereigntists.

The establishment of a tenacious Canadian security state came as no accident. On the contrary, the highest levels of government and the police, along with non-governmental interests and institutions, were involved in a concerted campaign. The security state grouped ordinary Canadians into dozens of political stereotypes and labelled them as threats.

Whose National Security? probes the security state’s ideologies and hidden agendas, and sheds light on threats to democracy that persist to the present day. The contributors’ varied approaches open up avenues for reconceptualizing the nature of spying.

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Whose National Security? provides revealing tales and telling analysis of the Canadian surveillance state.

– Ian McKay, Department of History, Queen’s University

Political policing in Canada has long underminded the democratic nature of this country. Lawyers acting in immigration, citizenship, criminal and other cases know that concepts like “national interest,” “disloyalty,” and “security threat” are used as barriers to prevent public scrutiny of official decisions made in secret. This book fills in details of this sordid history, and makes valuable contributions to understanding the problem.

– Robert Kellerman, Barrister and Soliciter, Toronto


Part I Origins of the National (In)Security State
Chaper 1 Observing the Political and Informing on the Personal: State Surveillance Systems in a European Context
Dieter K. Buse
Chapter 2 Spymasters, Spies, and Their Subjects: The RCMP and Canadian State Repression, 1914–39
Gregory S. Kealey
Part II Defining a Security Threat: Three Examples
Chapter 3 Private Policing and Surveillance of Catholics: Anti-Communism in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, 1920–60
Paula Maurutto
Chapter 4 The Red Petticoat Brigade: Mine Mill Women’s Auxiliaries and the Threat from Within, 1940s–70s
Mercedes Steedman
Chapter 5 Women Worth Watching: Radical Housewives in Cold War Canada
Julie Guard
Part III Education under Cover
Chapter 6 Spying 101: The RCMP’s Activities at the University of Saskatchewan, 1920–71
Steve Hewitt
Chapter 7 The Gaze on Clubs, Native Studies, and Teachers at Laurentian University, 1960s–70s
Terry Pender
Chapter 8 High-School Confidential: RCMP Surveillance of Secondary School Student Activists
Christabelle Sethna
Part IV Redefining a Security Threat: Newer Enemies
Chapter 9 “Government Girls” and “Ottawa Men”: Cold War Management of Gender Relations in the Civil Service
Patrizia Gentile
Chapter 10 Constructing Gay Men and Lesbians as National Security Risks, 1950–70
Gary Kinsman
Chapter 11 Making Model Citizens: Gender, Corrupted Democracy, and Immigrant and Refugee Reception Work in Cold War Canada
Franca Iacovetta
Part V The Machinery of State in Action: Means and Consequences
Chapter 12 Debilitating Divisions: The Civil Liberties Movement in Early Cold War Canada, 1946–48
Frank K. Clarke
Chapter 13 Interrogating Security: A Personal Memoir of the Cold War
Geoffrey S. Smith
Chapter 14 Euphoric Security: The Lie Detector and Popular Culture
Geoffrey C. Bunn
Part VI Finding Security in the Archives
Chapter 15 What’s in My File? Reflections of a “Security Threat"
Larry Hannant
Chapter 16 Researchers and Canada’s Public Archives: Gaining Access to the Security Collections
Kerry Badgley
Chapter 17 The Experiences of a Researcher in the Maze
Heidi McDonell
Part VII Old Methods and Recent Trends
Chapter 18 Remembering Federal Police Surveillance in Quebec, 1940s–70s
Madeleine Parent
Chapter 19 In Whose Public Interest? The Canadian Union of Postal Workers and National Security
Evert Hoogers
Chapter 20 When CSIS Calls: Canadian Arabs, Racism, and the Gulf War
Zuhair Kashmeri
Part VIII The Continuing Surveillance State
Chapter 21 APEC Days at UBC: Student Protests and National Security in an Era of Trade Liberalization
Karen Pearlston
Chapter 22 How the Centre Holds—National Security as an Ideological Practice
Gary Kinsman, with Dieter K. Buse and Mercedes Steedman